Dorothea has written a very interesting post comparing the ALA to the guild system in the Medieval world. She makes some great suggestions and observations about the ALA’s mission and whose interests they should be serving. I agree with her 100% that if the MLS is to mean anything, programs need to become far more rigorous. What is the purpose of a professional degree if not to prepare the degree-holder and and offer him/her entry into the profession?
Andrea over at Library Techtonics has also written about her experience with “the librarian shortage” in her 8-month job search. She also believes that there should be some selectivity in library school admissions and that they should at least ensure that the people entering the profession are doing it because they have a passion for librarianship (not because they think there is a librarian shortage!):
Honestly, I think that the recruitment discussion should move away from numbers and towards a more selective approach focused on the quality and demeanor of recruits. Too many people ran to library school in the poor economy based on those stats just for a job, not for the love of the job, and library schools take their money and graduate them. Schools really need to be more selective, and that needs to be a larger part of the ALA accredidation process and recommendations.
When I see that someone like Andrea (a woman with an MLS who graduated from one of the best universities in the country and has TONS of tech-savvy and good public service/instruction experience) can only now get library experience as a volunteer, I wonder if I’ll ever find a job.
I guess my questions is: can the ALA properly serve both libraries and librarians in terms of recruiting issues? It is in the libraries’ best interests to have a large ready supply of MLS-holders, but it is certainly not in the best interest of librarians. Usually, the interests of librarians and libraries are the same, but is it good for the ALA to serve two masters? In this time of budget cuts, it is going to become increasingly difficult for the ALA to serve the interests of both the institution and the people who make up the institution.
I’ve only had that degree 5 years, but in my experience ALA has never done much in the way of representing or serving librarians.
They do a great job at getting organizations to agree on standards, promoting collaboration, and serving as moral bedrock on political issues.
But serve librarians? Forget it.
After complaining about how crazy and dissonant ALA’s 2001 conference in San Francisco was, several colleagues explained that the the event is only worthwhile if you’re involved with some flavor of committee. Others expressed a preference for boozing it up whenever Midwinter happened to be in New Orleans.
So the message was that the organization served *itself*. And alcohol. ALA is supposed to do what, for me, exactly? I didn’t renew my membership.
So all that to lead up to,
Promoting a librarian shortage must somehow serve ALA, and it must somehow serve some libraries.
There is probably no shortage of extroverted, tech-savvy, non-shit-taking, freshly-dimploma’d new librarains who want well paying jobs in major cities, and there probably never was.
ALA serves a much broader group of organizations than the ones you’ll find a satisfying job at. Are you willing to take $17/hr for a half time position at an underfunded library with absentee managers and your remaining co-workers threatened by your technical knowledge? I speculate that ALA is working to put an MLS into the hands of people that will.
So P.S. – I love all of you library blog people, that’s why I keep reading. Keep at it and you’ll get good satisfying jobs, at least eventually. I agree with you in essence, and am probably not as jaded as I sound. I believe in you, just not in ALA.